George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Robert Dinwiddie, 22 April 1756

To Robert Dinwiddie

[Winchester, 22 April 1756]

To the Honorable Robert Dinwiddie, Governor.
Honorable Sir,

This encloses several letters, and the minutes of a Council of War, which was held upon the receipt of them.1 Your Honor may see to what unhappy straits the distressed Inhabitants as well as I, am reduced. I am too little acquainted, Sir, with pathetic language, to attempt a description of the peoples distresses; though I have a generous soul, sensible of wrongs, and swelling for redress—But what can I do? If bleeding, dying! would glut their insatiate revenge—I would be a willing offering to Savage Fury: and die by inches, to save a people! I see their situation, know their danger, and participate their Sufferings; without having it in my power to give them further relief, than uncertain promises. In short; I see inevitable destruction in so clear a light, that, unless vigorous measures are taken by the Assembly, and speedy assistance sent from below; the poor Inhabitants that are now in Forts, must unavoidably fall; while the remainder of the County are flying before the barbarous Foe. In fine; the melancholy situation of the people; the little prospect of assistance[;] The gross and scandalous abuses cast upon the Officers in general—which is reflecting upon me in particular; for suffering misconducts of such extraordinary kinds—and the distant prospects, if any, that I can see, of gaining Honor and Reputation in the Service—are motives which cause me to lament the hour that gave me a Commission: and would induce me at any other time than this, of imminent danger; to resign without one hesitating moment, a command, which I never expect to reap either Honor or Benefit from: But, on the contrary, have almost an absolute certainty of incurring displeasure below: While the murder of poor innocent Babes, and helpless families, may be laid to my account here!

The supplicating tears of the women; and moving petitions from the men, melt me into such deadly sorrow, that I solemnly declare, if I know my own mind—I could offer myself a willing Sacrifice to the butchering Enemy, provided that would contribute to the peoples ease.

Lord Fairfax has ordered men from the adjacent counties: But when they will come, or in what numbers, I can not pretend to determine—If I may judge from the success we have met with here, I have but little hopes; as three days incessant endeavours have produced but twenty men.

I have too often urged my opinion for vigorous measures—Therefore I shall only add; that besides the accounts you will receive in the Letters; we are told, from all parts, that the woods appear to be alive with Indians, who feast upon the Fat of the Land. As we have not more than a Barrel or two of Powder at this place; the rest being at Fort Cumberland; I could wish your Honor would send up some. I have wrote to Alexandria and Fredericksburgh, desiring that two Barrels may be sent from each place;2 but whether there is any at either, I know not. I have sent Orders to Captain Harrison to be diligent on the waters where he is posted; and to use his utmost endeavours to protect the People; and, if possible, to surprize the Enemy at their sleeping places. Ashbys Letter is a very extraordinary one.3 The design of the Indians was only, in my opinion to intimidate him into a Surrender—For which reason I have wrote him word, that if they do attack him, he must defend that place to the last extremity: and, when he is bereft of hope; then to lay a train to blow up the Fort, and retire by night to Cumberland.4 A small Fort which we have at the mouth of Pattersons Creek, containing an officer and thirty men, guarding Stores, was attacked smartly by the French and Indians; and were as warmly received; upon which they retired.5 Our men at present are dispersed into such small Bodies, guarding the People and Public Stores; that we are not able to make, or even form a Body. I am Your Honors &c.



1The minutes of the council of war are dated 21 April, but the letters that GW sent to Dinwiddie and that Dinwiddie in turn gave to the House of Burgesses have not been found. See Dinwiddie to GW, 26 April 1756, and the entry of 26 April 1756, in JHB description begins H. R. McIlwaine and John Pendleton Kennedy, eds. Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia. 13 vols. Richmond, 1905–15. description ends , 1752–1755, 1756–1758, 384–85.

2GW wrote on 21 April to Daniel Fitzhugh in Fredericksburg for two barrels of powder; GW’s letter to Alexandria has not been found.

3For John Ashby’s letter, see GW to William Stark, 20 April 1756, n.2.

4GW’s letter to Ashby has not been found.

5According to Ashby, this attack occurred on 15 April. See note 3. Lt. Col. Adam Stephen in January had ordered a guard sent to the mouth of Patterson Creek to protect supplies that had been landed there because of lack of storage space at Fort Cumberland (Stephen to GW, 31 Jan. 1756).

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